Reviews from April and early May 2012 Vintages releases

April 28 Release Selections

Wines from Veneto and whites from New Zealand were featured in this release. My three best picks:

New Zealand, Marlborough – Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2009

This is a bright, complex and classic-in-every-way Gewürz from a region that should be making more wine from this grape. It has wonderful aromatics, and is balanced in ways that make it a great wine to enjoy on its own. It is slightly off-dry and has an appealing oily texture that makes for a long finish.

Dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle

Spain, Catalunya – DO Catalunya Torres Viña Esmeralda 2010

This is a classic match for spicy Asian foods, just as we find with Gewürztraminers. Viña Esmeralda is a blend of Moscatel (85%) and Gewürztraminer and is one of the most delightful wines you could ask for. It is just 0ff-dry, it has wonderful aromatics, it is light in weight and has precise apple, lychee and herbal aromas and flavours. Serve as an aperitif or match with Szechuan or curry dishes.

Dry, white wine – $13.95 per bottle

France, Bordeaux – AOC Lalande de Pomerol Château des Moines 2009

This is an excellent buy from a second-tier zone of a top-tier appellation in Bordeaux, the kind of place I seek when I’m on the prowl for values. This is a Merlot-dominated blend with dense flavours, a soft, ripe texture and sound structure.  The acidity is crisp, the tannins are firm and the fruit character is complex and assertive. This wine has good ageing potential and should drink well over the next 5-7 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle

May 12 Release Selections

This release featured California Legends and Rosé wines.  Two values stand out:

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2008

As production volumes increase at Hidden Bench we are now seeing more wines in Vintages from this maker.  This is good news as H-B stands out as a consistent maker of concentrated wines which show finesse and place.  The wine shows oodles of black berry and currant fruit with layers of tar, cocoa and toast.  There is juicy acid and sleek tannins, making for a finely structured and balanced wine. This wine is only made in those years where adequate phenolic ripeness for the Cabernet Sauvignon is achieved, so I recommend buying a bottle or three when it appears on the market. This wine is ready for consumption now but it will continue to evolve in your cellar for the next 7 – 10 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $35.20 per bottle (WVN Collector’s Item)

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Costières de Nîmes Mas des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Rosé 2011

Mas des Bressades has developed a strong following among Vintages value shoppers for the past many years.  Here comes another… a delightfully fresh and bright blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault.  The colour is strawberry red and the nose and palate show more strawberry, along with some herbal elements.  The texture of this wine is ripe and full and there is plenty of crisp acid on the mid palate and finish.  Buy a case of this wine for your patio enjoyment this summer.

Extra dry, rosé wine – $13.95 per bottle (Rosé feature wine)


May 26 Release Selections

In my quest for value I am always skeptical when I see a feature that focuses on high-scoring wines.  Not only am I a skeptic on scores in general, I am specifically skeptical of scores awarded when the wines are not tasted blind.  Call it the Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome but so often the critic reads a label on an icon and is influenced (unconsciously, perhaps) by that label to grant a score that befits the wine’s status, not necessarily its quality.

Notwithstanding my bias against scores, most of the wines in this week’s selection come from the 90+ feature.  They are all great values.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2008

Run don’t walk to your local Vintages outlet to get some of this special wine. This has been a favourite of my wife’s for many years and it demonstrates what we can do with Riesling in Niagara.  This is a precise and fresh wine with beautiful lime and spice on the nose and palate.  It has modest residual sugar but the crisp acidity makes for a wonderfully balanced texture.  The finish is long and clean.  Buy several bottles and lay down in your cellar for the next 5-7 years.

Medium-dry, white wine – $29.95 per bottle (90+ feature wine)

 Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara River Closson Chase K.J Watson Vineyard Chardonnay 2009

Made with Niagara fruit in Prince Edward County this wine is a stunner. It is big in every way: flavours, concentration, texture, colour depth and complexity.  The richness of this wine reminds me of the Beamsville Bench Chardonnay made by Deborah Paskus and Stephen Temkin back in 1998, aimed at demonstrating that world class Chardonnay could be made in Ontario. If you remember that wine you will want to buy a few bottles of this one.  It is well-made, and shows exceptional fruit, acid, oak, harmony.

Extra dry, white wine – $34.95 per bottle (90+ feature wine)

France, Bordeaux– AOC Entre-deux-Mers Château Vignol Blanc 2010

Whatever the Closson Chase delivers in size, this Entre-deux-Mers delivers in precision.  A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle, this is a crisp and easy-to-appreciate wine that shows plenty of citrus, and herbs on the nose and palate. This wine will match well with light summer salads and white fishes…or drink it on its own as an aperitif. Great value for the summer.

Extra dry, white wine – $13.95 per bottle

Italy, Molise – DOC Biferno Rosso Di Majo Norante Ramitello 2009

We see few wines from the small central Italy region of Molise, described by writers Bastianich and Lynch as “the lost world of Italian wine”.  Molise is located on the Adriatic side of the peninsula, abutting Abruzzo to the north, Puglia to the south and Campania to the southeast.  Located thus, you can imagine the wines show elements of the north and the south of Italy in their style and pedigree.  This wine is a case in that point, made with a blend of Aglianico and Montepulciano  grapes. You will find this is ripe, juicy wine with dry tannins,  black cherry fruit, herbs and well-integrated wood. The weight is medium and the finish is clean and long.  This is a wine for next winter when it will be a good match for a leg of lamb.

Extra dry, red wine – $15.95 per bottle (90+ feature wine)

Spain, Rioja – DOCa Rioja Bodegas Altanza Lealtanza Reserva 2005

Despite its advanced age you will find this wine to be bright and fresh with juicy acid, finely-grained tannins and plenty of red fruit.  There is a background of wood but it is in balance with the fruit and tannins so we have a very elegant wine in this one. For those who find Rioja reservas too oaky and flat, try this wine.  You’re in for a pleasant surprise…at an excellent price.

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (90+ feature wine)

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2012.


Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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